What the villains of this era lack in terms of "instant recognition factor," they make up for in sheer viciousness. Itchy is relatively unmemorable apart from his scabrous habit but thinks nothing of shooting down his gangland pals in cold blood or starving the captured Tracy almost to death, just for kicks. The skin-crawling mesmerist Influence's bizarre appearance is only a surface reflection of the fact that he's quite patently insane; he strangles several people and tries to burn Pat Patton alive, among other gruesome things. Political "fixer" Shoulders abandons his "moll" without a second thought and guns down a little girl. The supposedly quasi-comical Gargles, after running the most ludicrous shakedown operation in living memory ("mouthwash bootlegging"? Couldn't it at least have been something that was still subject to postwar rationing?), whacks a store owner and a sick, elderly woman just to get back some incriminating photos. Even the origin story of the 2-Way Radio, which could have been a nice, simple case of industrial espionage, features a near-fatal shooting of Diet Smith and the disgruntled Smith employee Irma's cynical manipulation of her blind genius son, Brilliant. Flattop and The Brow may have been flashier (and uglier), but these were NOT nice people.
Brilliant and comely radio DJ Christmas Early are just two of the characters introduced in this volume who would have shorter-than-deserved shelf lives. The third and most intriguing of the significant short-termers here -- a character who really should have enjoyed a much longer career, IMHO -- is the spirited street urchin, Themesong. Think Darkwing Duck's Gosalyn Mallard, only with Kit Cloudkicker's back story and a much better singing voice. Even when she's technically a villain, Themesong is a thoroughly appealing character, and we definitely feel for her after she is shot by Shoulders and Gargles subsequently offs her mom. (There's a definite "spiritual connection" to Gosalyn's Grandpa Waddlemeyer and his fate at the hooves of Taurus Bulba there.) How I would have loved to have seen Junior Tracy, who himself experienced more than his share of time on the wrong side of the tracks, take Themesong under his wing, as it were, and become her friend, conscience, and ally. The formation of Junior's Crime Stoppers' Club was just under the horizon; why couldn't Themesong have joined Junior's generic guy pals as one of its members? I guess there is such a thing as being too inventive at times, and Gould simply wanted to move on (either that, or the thought of a co-ed kids' club never occurred to him). At least Theme (1) ultimately found a happy home with Christmas Early and (2) made at least one appearance as an adult during the Max Collins-Dick Locher era of TRACY.
The volume "makes its weight" with columns by Max Collins, Jeff Kersten, and Michael Price (who discusses the RKO Dick Tracy films). As always, these comments are far more than mere "filler" and maintain the Library of American Comics' high standards for supplemental material. I can't express how grateful I am to IDW for giving these "sequential-art classics" the treatment they deserve.